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The Gender Card

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Message Jennifer Epps

            Earlier this year, Clinton supporters like Geraldine Ferraro, Gloria Steinem, Saturday Night Live alumnae, contributors to a Newsweek special issue, and some email petitions decried a sexist bias against Hillary in the media. Ferraro went on Fox several weeks after she supposedly left the campaign and used the occasion of Randi Rhodes’ comedy routine to again defend her own statement that had gotten her into hot water; she defended herself by accusing the Obama campaign of “playing the race card”. But in the process of lamenting the inequity between the way the two campaigns are received she herself was playing the gender card.

            It’s true that after Hillary got teary in New Hampshire the ludicrous question of her emotionality saturated the media. But what that news cycle showed was that she is savvier about the media than some feminists fear. She did win that primary.

            Clinton’s sniper fire gaffe is not something she can blame the media for; unless rising from its usual lethargy and actually researching something a politician said is an example of bias. But it does show that she thought it was sound media strategy to align herself with an image of war. It also underlines how the junior senator from New York wants liberals to see her as against the Iraq war while she tries to be militaristic for the right-wing.

            As we all know, Clinton voted in 2002 for the war on Iraq while Obama went on public record opposing it. She has tried very hard to claim Obama’s stand against the war doesn’t count. It may have surprised her that the war became so unpopular that this difference between them actually seemed to mean something, especially to the young. She has repeatedly undermined Obama’s early anti-war position by unsmilingly joking that it’s her “lifetime of experience” and McCain’s “lifetime of experience” versus Obama’s “speech he made in 2002.”

            In so doing, she undermines the stand any of us who opposed the war took in 2002 – or 2003, or since – whether it was a speech, a protest sign, a letter to Congress, or more. She has never explained why she couldn’t tell that the Bush Administration was lying even though millions of us worldwide could. She has not explained why she, supposedly so tough and so savvy in D.C. ways, saw nothing fishy in any of the administration’s 935 false statements about Iraq in the two years after 9/11. Perhaps we ordinary citizens, armed with internet access to public information, had greater resources than she did and knew things she couldn’t: that Bush made claims about an IAEA report on Iraq that were publicly contradicted by the IAEA the next day; that intelligence officials expressed disagreement on various of the Administration’s allegations before the war; that former UN inspector and ex-marine Scott Ritter was sure he and his team had thoroughly and permanently destroyed Hussein’s biological and chemical weapons after the Gulf War.

            Even if we give her the benefit of the doubt and accept her argument that Bush tricked Congress into thinking they were just supporting a resolution to give him power to force U.N. inspections—and he did try that ruse—the truth is she also voted against the Oct. 2002 Levin Amendment, which contained a clause for “a new resolution of the United Nations Security Council” before a move to disarm Iraq. That would have kept Congress in charge of authorizing war. But it seems this ‘tested’, ‘ready’ candidate who says she’s the best to stand up to Republicans didn’t care to stand up during that test. (Her presidential campaign statement on this vote blames "the language of the Levin Amendment” as if it “would have made it the law of the land that the President could not act without Security Council approval.” Yet the amendment clearly stated the opposite by reiterating the U.S.’ right to self-defense. As does international law anyway.)

            She has spent years trying to distance herself from her vote to authorize military force, but without going as far as Obama has in condemning the war. In Dec. 2006 she told ABC News “if we knew then what we know now there wouldn’t have been a vote”—implying that it was all a mistake, and perhaps that Bush would never have sought the authorization if he’d known there were no WMDs in Iraq.

            Yet she made this excuse over a year and a half after “the Downing Street memos” were published in The Sunday Times (U.K.) on May 1, 2005. It’s very unlikely that Hillary was still unaware so long after their publication that memos of secret meetings between the Brits and the White House, several months before Congress’ vote on Iraq, revealed that “the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” to invade. She certainly should have understood the significance of the July 23, 2002 memo which briefed the Prime Minister on the U.S. plan: “Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD.” And she should have grasped that the lines in the memo which read “But the case was thin. Saddam was not threatening his neighbours, and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea or Iran” were clear evidence that Bush already ‘knew then what we know now’.

            She tried to stress once again, in the April 16th debate in Philadelphia, that she thinks she can fight the Republicans better than Obama can. Oh, when will she start? The DNC’s own website catalogues numerous allegations of improper relations between McCain and a variety of lobbyists – potentially powerful financial and political scandals – but does Clinton care? She praised McCain again at the debate on ABC, calling him ‘formidable’; while critiquing Obama’s associations with Rev. Wright and William Ayers under the cover that this is what “the Republicans will be raising.” When will she raise Democratic objections against them instead of Republican objections against a Democrat?

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Jennifer Epps is a peace, social justice, pro-democracy, environmentalist and animal activist in L.A. She has also been a scriptwriter, stage director, actor, puppeteer, and film critic. Her political film reviews are collected at: (more...)
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